Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Group Fitness and Motivation

I've mentioned before that I'm pretty into LesMills workout classes. First of all, group fitness in itself is a way of life for me. I participate in group fitness 4-5 days a week. For me it has multiple effects; primarily, group fitness pushed me harder than I wouldve pushed myself when I first got back into working out again, after having my son. When you're a new mom, there's various factors that make working out so difficult. Among other things, your body feels like jello (at least mine did) and you're extremely fatigued from lack of sleep. I didn't actually commit to a work out plan until Angelo was a year old (trust me, it was not a fun year going without it!). When I finally did, I felt isolated working out by myself- waiting for Angelo to fall asleep so I could squeeze in whatever workout possible in the time he stayed asleep (being home alone with the baby all day while my husband was at work added to the feeling of isolation).

When I first got back into working out, I went the traditional route and began running, which was my go-to workout for as long as I could remember. Unfortunately, jogging for 20-25 minutes per day, 2-3 days per week (that was all the time I could devote initially) was doing very little to change my body. I knew that my body was just different now and I needed to kick it up a notch to see results.

I started working out with Jillian Michaels dvds right before Thanksgiving 2011. I began with Ripped in 30. If you've never done a Jillian Michaels workout, she has a signature format: warm-up, 3 minutes of strength, 2 minutes of cardio and 1 minute of abs, three circuits of each (no recovery) and then a cool-down. The workout is short (20-30 minutes) but very intense. There are four levels on the dvd and they each get progressively more challenging. Although you're supposed to do each level for 6 days before advancing to the next, due to my work schedule, I could only allot three days per week so I did each level three times per week for two weeks before advancing. The workouts were hard but I felt so good after each and the time commitment was absolutely ideal for a new mom. By the time the company holiday party rolled around (less than one month later), there was already a distinct change in my body and I was so excited to be able to show it off in a new dress!

I continued with her workouts (I tried 30 Day Shred) and I mixed in running here and there and some soccer with my husband and friends on a club team (!) until summertime. By then, I had lost 14 lbs. and was so proud of my work.

But I found myself falling into the same rut again when soccer ended and I resumed fully working out by myself. I wanted to be around others and share the spirit of a hard, effective workout so my sister suggested I try group fitness. She told me about Gold's Gym, which she knew held group classes. I went for a tour and ended up joining.

The first class I tried was Body Pump. I was used to squatting (lots of squats with Jillian!) but I wasnt prepared for the amount of squats you do in Body Pump. 100 reps per body parts for a grand total of 800! I thought it was challenging, but fun and the music was awesome! The music, the fun instructor and the feeling of "wow, I just did 800 reps" drew me in and I was addicted.

The feeling of working out with others sometimes makes you feel like part of a team. When you attend the same classes on a weekly basis, you're greeted by the same friendly faces week after week. Arrive late? Your spot is still vacant if you're a regular. It feels nice to be a part of the group. (It's also a plus when the instructor knows you by name!) Another great benefit, for me, at least, is since I know others are around and can see me performing the workout, I try to keep my best form and do the advanced options. I like to pretend that I would be an example for others to follow on how to perform the moves correctly and most efficiently. If I keep that in my mind during a tough workout, it keeps me going at my best. I constantly think about the fact that others can see me (people I see on a weekly basis including the instructor) so I cannot slack on good form even if I have to reduce the weight I'm lifting at a given time. (This is actually really important since proper form prevents injury! I also have a hunch that improper form can promote asymmetry if, for example, like me your left arm is stronger, you're fatigued and trying to finish the last set of military presses, you're going to, by default, put more weight on the stronger side making it stronger and the weaker side weaker. Just a hunch, though, and I will discuss it more in a later post.)

The coaching cues help you keep going  when you're fatigued and the fact that the instructor and others are watching you, pushes you not to stop and, as I mentioned, to maintain proper form no matter what you're feeling.

In the past year and a half, group fitness has pushed me past what I thought my limits were and has changed my body completely. Since trying BodyPump, I've started doing CXworx, BodyStep athletic, BodyAttack, BodyCombat, Zumba Toning and I've even tried Spin a few times (not a regular. Unfortunately, I'm not a huge fan.)

Although I am now certified as a personal trainer and enjoy making up my own workouts and I also enjoy trying workouts I find online (actually, I just love to work out in general!) I truly believe consistently attending group classes has made me fitter and stronger and brought me to a level I probably wouldn't have attained on my own. It's a huge motivator in two senses: the anticipation of the enjoyment of your workout gets you in the door even when you're tired and don't feel like working hard and the prompts and cues of the instructor taking you through the workout keep you from resting when you're fatigued and motivate you to continue when you feel like you can't go on. I think I just defined frequency and intensity here, and those are two major elements that make us stronger.

Based on what I've learned in the past couple of years, I truly see the importance of having someone motivate you and push you whether that be a personal trainer in a one on one or small group session or a group fitness instructor in a large group setting. I've even heard group instructors say they would never work out so hard if they weren't teaching (benefits of the pre-choreographed program, I believe). I hope to have the opportunity to motivate someone else in that same way, whether through personal training, consulting/giving advice, writing this blog or perhaps group instructing some day myself.  I'd love to be able to share the feeling I experienced of working hard, smashing a major goal and getting in the best shape of my life and help others achieve their goals. It's totally possible to do it on your own but having a motivator may help you do it more intensely and more often leading to faster and better results. Of course, it's always important to listen to your body and progress at your own pace otherwise you risk getting fed up, giving up and not meeting your goals.

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